In a few hours from now, the fate of newly appointed Jharkhand chief minister Champai Soren will be realised. His government will have to prove its majority today (5 February) during a floor test, which has been scheduled to begin at 11 am.
The floor test comes just days after Soren was sworn in — on 2 February — following the arrest of previous Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s resignation and subsequent arrest. Currently in jail, Hemant Soren will also take part in the voting process today.
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha-led alliance MLAs have exuded confidence ahead of the vote, even as they made their way back to Ranchi from Hyderabad where they were holed up. Landing at Birsa Munda Airport, one of them said, “Our MLAs are united… We have the support of 48 to 50 legislators.” Another one also asserted that the coalition would sail through.
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As we prepare for the trust vote, here’s a better look the numbers and what’s happened so far.
Return of resort politics
Last Friday, Champai Soren, the veteran leader of the JMM, was sworn in by Governor CP Radhakrishnan and was given until Monday (5 February) to prove his government’s majority on the floor of the House.
It was after this that 39 MLAs of the ruling coalition, led by the JMM, headed to Hyderabad and camped out at a “secretive place” in an attempt to thwart poaching bids by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Among the many who went to Hyderabad were Hemant Soren’s brother and MLA Basant Soren.
It was later reported that the MLAs had been taken to Leonia Holistic Destination at Shamirpet in Hyderabad and were kept under the watchful eyes of AICC secretary and in charge of Telangana Deepa Das Munshi.
In fact, at the resort itself, the Congress, which is in alliance with the JMM, made extensive arrangements to “protect” the legislators from poaching efforts. For instance, entry into the rooms of the lawmakers was restricted. Moreover, only one elevator was allowed on the floors where they were staying and could only be used by authorised personnel. Additionally, police officers were guarding the lifts 24×7.
MLAs at the resort were also provided with separate dining arrangements and that was out of bounds for other guests of the resort. The dining hall too had tight police security. News agency PTI quoting sources said the MLAs still had their phones. Additionally, the entire resort was teeming with police personnel dressed in plain clothes.
It was only on Sunday night that the MLAs in the coalition returned to Ranchi and were moved to Circuit House after efforts to bring them back on Saturday night failed owing to inclement weather.
On their return, JMM lawmaker Mithilesh Thakur asserted that the coalition would sail through the trust vote. “Many BJP legislators are also in support of the alliance in the state,” he claimed.
However, while the ruling coalition lawmakers exuded confidence of a victory in today’s trust vote, the BJP expressed its doubts. Biranchi Narain, Chief Whip of the BJP, said the coalition was set to lose the vote of confidence on Monday. He said the MLAs in Hyderabad were kept under strict surveillance, which indicates that they were not confident of winning.
BJP leader Amar Bauri was also quoted as saying that the move to relocate the MLAs to Hyderabad showed their weakness. “The JMM-led alliance doesn’t have any threat from the BJP, but they are trying to hide their internal differences,” he was quoted as saying.
The Congress, despite claims of differences within the coalition, has continued to maintain that it has the majority numbers. But how do the numbers really stack up?
In the 81-member Assembly — one of the seats is vacant, so it’s a 40-member Assembly for now — the majority mark is 41.
Currently, the JMM-led alliance is in power, with the JMM holding 29 seats, the Congress having 17 seats, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) having one seat and the CPI (ML) having one more seat. This results in a total of 47 seats.
Earlier this week, a video of the MLAs conducting a headcount and claiming the support of 43 legislators emerged, indicating that the Champai Soren-led government would sail through the trust vote.
On the other side, the BJP and its allies — the All Jharkhand Students Union, the Ajit Pawar-led NCP — have 29 seats.
There is a buzz, however, that two JMM MLAs can skip the voting, with NDTV reporting that this would skew the majority numbers.
However, both the JMM and Congress are firm in their stance that they will win this vote. “We have a majority in the 81-seat Assembly… Even Hemant Soren has been permitted by the special court (to cast his vote). This is a conspiracy by the Enforcement Directorate. We will win the floor test. It has been clear from the start that the Modi government has been misusing the ED, CBI and Income Tax departments against the INDIA members. They are no longer independent institutions,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh was quoted as saying earlier.
The Jharkhand political crisis
The state of Jharkhand was plunged into crisis after Hemant Soren was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate following a nearly seven-hour long interrogation in a land scam related money laundering case on Wednesday (31 January).
However, Soren before his arrest, tendered his resignation, paving the way for a new CM — in the form of Champai Soren. The MLA from Saraikela-Kharsawan was then sworn in as the 12th chief minister last Friday and given 10 days to prove his majority.
With inputs from agencies